By Segun Adeyemi, SA To Hon Minister of Information and Culture, Abuja
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has appealed to the media to fully support the Administration’s fight against corruption, saying the fourth estate of the realm cannot afford to sit on the fence as far as the battle to rid the nation of corruption is concerned.
Declaring open the 68th General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) in Abuja on Monday, the Minister said while the media should not hesitate to criticise the government’s strategy for the war against corruption, when necessary, it should do so without mocking the government.
”In recent times, it is not unusual to read such headlines as ‘Buhari’s Government Losing Anti-Corruption War’, ‘Buhari’s Anti-Corruption War is Failing’, ‘Arewa Youths Knock President Buhari Over Failing Anti-corruption War’. This is sheer mockery. And this war is not Buhari’s war. It is our war,” he said.
On why all hands must be on deck to fight corruption, Alhaji Mohammed said corruption is the reason for the many ills being experienced in the country today, including erratic power supply, poorly-equipped hospitals, lack of motorable roads, poor quality of life, poor economy, lack of jobs and insecurity
”After previous administrations spent billions of dollars on power, all we inherited – when we took over on the 29th of May 2015 – was 2,690 megawatts. That is due to corruption. After previous governments budgeted billions for roads over the years, what we inherited are death traps. That is due to corruption. Why did Boko Haram thrive for so long? The answer is corruption, because money meant for the purchase of weapons for the military were simply diverted. Why did we inherit an economy in dire straits? It is corruption. For a country that sold oil at over 100 dollars per barrel for years, we simply failed to save for the rainy day, and when the rain came, it beat us silly,” he said.
The Minister said the war against corruption is the toughest of the three broad issues that the Buhari Administration campaigned with, ”because fighting corruption anywhere is like walking a lonely road”.
”While many will join hands with you to tackle insecurity or to revamp the economy, you are on your own when you take on corruption. Most Nigerians were direct beneficiaries of corruption. Many were subsidized by corruption. Now that the gravy train of corruption is fast derailing, many are finding it difficult to come to terms with it. That’s the origin of the ‘Bring Back Corruption’ Campaign being carried out by certain elements in our society,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the war against corruption becomes tougher when the media is not fully on board, adding: ”When the media seizes on every setback we suffer in prosecuting this war, they give succour to the corrupt. When the media falls for the distraction tactics of those who are mortally afraid of this war, they weaken the battle.”
He said the because of the courageous, determined and committed leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari, and despite the fact that corruption is fighting back furiously, the Administration is winning the war.
”For our efforts so far, we have so much to showcase: Because we are tackling corruption, we have succeeded in raising power generation from 2,690 to an all-time high of 7,001MW. Because we are tackling corruption, we are saving 25 billion Naira monthly by cutting unnecessary allowances of officials. Because we are tackling corruption, we have added 500 million dollars to our Sovereign Wealth Fund that stagnated at the 1-billion-dollar that was used to set it up. We have raised our foreign reserves from 23 billion dollars to 35 billion dollars. We stopped the payment of phantom subsidy of between 800 billion and 1.3 trillion Naira annually, yet petroleum products are available at competitive prices.
”We recovered at least 43 million dollars and 56 houses from just one former government official. We have recovered 2.9 billion dollars from looters so far. Our Whistle-blower policy has led to the recovery of 151 million dollars and N8 billion in looted funds from just three sources,” the Minister said.